The “First Take” vs “Undisputed” showdown gets more attention from the sports media, and that’s understandable. There is the Skip Bayless’ old show versus Skip Bayless’ new show angle as well as the ESPN2 vs FS1 angle.
PTI is just down. 21% versus Labor Day*. It’s more interesting to me because it’s ESPN’s flagship debate show, the one with the most viewers. It’s still a half hour. Same hosts. Same channel. Same time slot.
A case can be made that its lead-ins (Highly Questionable and Around the Horn) are down and hurting the show, but in years past that mostly hasn’t mattered to PTI.
You can claim FS1 is doing some of the damage by showing the “Undisputed” rerun from 3-5p ET and “Speak for Yourself” at 5pm. But ESPN’s declines are bigger than FS1’s gains (as is the case with “First Take” and “Undisputed”.)
Maybe some of it is the election — that’s the NFL’s talking point when it comes to ratings declines.
If your biases happen to be negative there are seemingly unlimited ways to confirm them! While I caution against using ratings to validate a particular worldview, from “Debate shows are dying!” to “ESPN is too liberal!” to “TV is dying” plenty of biases are being confirmed.
Whatever the reasons, PTI is down 21% and that’s not good for ESPN.
*There have been a few days since Labor Day where PTI aired on a different ESPN network in 2016 than it did on the equivalent day in 2015. I removed those days from the comparison.